Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cole’s First Solo Evening Ride of the Year

Cole’s First Solo Evening Ride of the Year

To give you a little background, Cole hasn’t been a very good trail horse in the evenings. His biggest fault is trying to trot towards home instead of walking. A few attempts is no big deal, but it would be constant with him. Actually, this has been his main problem from the first time I took him on a walk down there. He had long ago improved his morning rides, but the evenings just got him excited. For some reason, all of our horses are quieter on the morning rides, so why should Cole be any different. Last year, after a few very bad rides, I mainly concentrated on working in the arena in the evenings. Towards fall, when I was running out of daylight, I did have a few successful evening rides, but that wasn’t surprising, considering how awesome he was on his morning rides.

Anyway, it was time to truly tackle the problem. My evenings are very busy because I ride Cruise, too, and there is only so much daylight. Once Daylight Savings came around, so did the rain. We spent our first week on the hill. I would ride all of Cruise’s ride (3 trips on the hill to the river) and only have enough time for part of Cole’s ride. I would do one trip on the hill (20 minutes) and finish the rest in the arena. This was working out. It was a reminder to Cole that there isn’t a reason to rush home.

The next week, I decided to switch the routine and ride Cole, first. For our first evening ride across the river, we went with Starry. Cole was excited, to say the least. We had some unrequested cantering—and then there was that big buck. Anyway, we managed to get to the next river crossing. Once we turned to go home, he got very wound up and kept trying to trot. Once I got him to calm down, I got off and led him. He relaxed and we walked until we had to cross the river, again, where I got back on. He bolted up the far bank. This wasn’t the greatest ride, but Kevin was happy. He got to do a lot of trotting with us, and Starry behaved pretty good.

A few days later, we tried it again, and Cole was vastly improved. We trotted even more, and we were able to walk all the way home.

It was time to try it alone.

We started out walking down the hill. When I asked him to cross the river, he thought it was a dumb idea. After all, we had been turning at the bottom and going back up. It took some urging and light taps with the whip, and he reluctantly stepped in. I remember he did that last spring, too. We made it to the other side and started trotting. Rather than shooting off like a bullet as he did last spring, he trotted at a regular and steady speed. That was a surprise for the first solo ride. All last year, he went much faster when he was alone than when he was with slower horses.

We did very well until we heard a gunshot. That spooked him, but I could certainly forgive him for that. It got him a bit hyper, so when we arrived to the spot where we used to canter a lot, he tried it. I made him walk past the trigger spot and then we trotted. We walked down a little hill, and then we reached a great section of trail that we love to trot or canter. I want to keep him at a trot for a few weeks until I feel his brain is in the right place, so away we went at a trot. About halfway through, he broke into a canter, and I quickly brought him back to a trot. Gradually, he got faster and faster, but he stayed sane. We stopped when we reached the next river crossing and turned back home.

For the half hour walk home, he didn’t do too bad, but he could have been better. He tried to trot a few times, but I didn’t have any trouble getting him to walk, and he didn’t escalate. It was more like he was making a suggestion and I was turning him down. It was a windy day, and at one point we heard a branch break. That spooked him big time—something that doesn’t happen often. He burst into a run. It only took about 6 strides before I got him to trot and just a few more and he was walking. That was great. I found out that when he really gets scared, he doesn’t lose his mind. He calmed down right away, too.

He walked slowly down the river bank, crossed the river and walked quietly up the other side. I dismounted there, and led him up the hill. It gives him a nice reward—and it helps me with my fitness program. I did ride him a little at the barn before putting him back into his stall.

We like to grade our rides, so that way we can measure improvement. I gave him a “C” which isn’t that bad, considering last spring, when I tried this, he flunked. I know he will get better, and we are at a pretty good starting point for this early in the year.

Oh, and he showed off his silly walk when I asked him to a couple of little kids on the trail. They were thrilled with it, and he got a click and carrot.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

Awesome job Cole! I think riding him in the arena when you get back is definitely a great idea because it shows him that hurrying back doesn't get him to his pasture or feed any faster. He's doing well. Keep up the great work.

Oh and sorry it is taking me so long to get caught back up.